United Kingdom service
Royal Navy service
British pre-dreadnoughts and cruisers of the period used these guns. Total production was 154 Mark I, 91 Mark II, 338 Mark III and 584 Mark IV. The Royal Navy received 776 of these guns directly. The Army transferred a further 110 to the Navy.
The Latona-class minelayer gave up their guns to produce high-angle anti-aircraft guns to defend London.
By World War I the guns were obsolete for warship use, but many were re-mounted on merchant ships and troopships for defence against enemy submarines and commerce raiders.
British Army service
In land service, limited numbers were mounted for use as coast artillery. In addition, some Mark IV guns were mounted on converted 40-Pr Rifled Breech Loading Gun carriages for use by batteries of the Volunteer Artillery. These were semi-mobile guns with limbers, which could be drawn by horses or gun tractors. They continued in use with artillery units of the Territorial Force, with some being used into the First World War.
Second Boer War (1899–1902)
British forces in the Second Boer War were initially outgunned by the long range Boer artillery. Captain Percy Scott of HMS Terrible first improvised timber static siege mountings for two 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns from the Cape Town coastal defences, to counter the Boers' "Long Tom" gun during the Siege of Ladysmith in 1899–1900.
Captain Scott then improvised a travelling carriage for 4.7 inch guns removed from their usual static coastal or ship mountings to provide the army with a heavy field gun. These improvised carriages lacked recoil buffers and hence in action drag shoes and attachment of the carriage by cable to a strong point in front of the gun were necessary to control the recoil. They were manned by Royal Navy crews and required up to 32 oxen to move.
World War I
South-West Africa Campaign (1914–1915)
The same guns mounted on "Percy Scott" carriages were used by South African forces against German forces in the South-West Africa Campaign in World War I. Guns were landed at Lüderitz Bay in October 1914 and later at Walvis Bay in February 1915 and moved inland across the desert in support of South African troops.
Western Front (1914–1917)
Up to 92 QF 4.7 inch guns on more modern Mk I "Woolwich" carriages dating from June 1900 with partially effective (12 inch) recoil buffers, and on heavier "converted" carriages from old RML 40 pounder guns, went to France with Royal Garrison Artillery units, mostly of the Territorial Force, in 1914–1917.
They figured prominently in the early battles, such as at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 where there were 32, and only 12 60 pounders, assigned to counter-battery fire. General Farndale reports that counter-battery fire there failed to deal with the German artillery, but ascribes the failure to the as yet imprecise nature of long range map shooting, and the difficulty of maintaining forward observers on the flat terrain.
By the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9 May 1915 the barrels of the 28 guns of the 3rd and 8th Heavy Brigades and the 1st West Riding and 1st Highland Heavy Batteries engaged were now so worn that driving bands were stripped off shells at the muzzle, limiting accuracy. In addition two guns in the armoured train "Churchill" were in action at Aubers Ridge. Thirty-three 60 pounders were available. Counter-battery fire again failed due to the inaccuracy of the worn-out guns and also because the army still lacked accurate means of locating enemy guns, as air observation and reporting and use of radio was only beginning.
The inaccuracy through wear and relatively light shell diminished their usefulness in the developing trench warfare, and they were replaced by the modern 60 pounder guns as they became available. At the Battle of the Somme in June–July 1916 there were 32 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns and 128 60-pounders engaged. The last were however not withdrawn until April 1917. Guns withdrawn from the Western Front were redeployed to other fronts such as Italy and Serbia.
Battle of Gallipoli (1915)
A 4.7 inch gun was used by the 1st Heavy Artillery Battery, a joint unit of Australians and Royal Marines, on Gallipoli to counter long range Turkish fire from the "Olive Grove" (in fact "Palamut Luk" or Oak Grove) between Gaba Tepe and Maidos. Lt-Colonel Rosenthal, commanding 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade, noted : "I had made continual urgent representations for two 4.7-inch guns for right flank to deal with innumerable targets beyond the range of 18-prs., but it was not till 11 July that one very old and much worn gun arrived, and was placed in position on right flank, firing its first round on 26 July." This gun was destroyed and left behind at the withdrawal from Gallipoli but later salvaged as a museum piece. The burst barrel is on display at the Australian War Memorial.
Several 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns mounted on "Percy Scott" carriages served with British and Serb forces in the Salonika (Macedonian) campaign from January 1916 onwards.
The Japanese Type 41 4.7-inch/40 (12 cm) naval gun was a license-produced copy of the Elswick Mark IV. Initially, a number were procured directly from Elswick in England. After the turn of the century, production in Japan was under the designation "Mark IVJ". The gun was re-designated as Type 41 on 25 December 1908, after the 41st year in the reign of Japanese Emperor Meiji. It was further re-designated in centimeters on 5 October 1917 as part of the standardization process for the Imperial Japanese Navy to the metric system. Although finally classified as a "12 cm" gun the bore was unchanged at 4.724 inches.
During World War I, the Japanese Navy transferred 24 original Elswick-built and 13 Mark IVJ to Britain as part of their military assistance to the Allies under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. In 1940, some of these weapons were emplaced in British coastal defence batteries; for instance, at Mersea Island in Essex.
It was the standard secondary or tertiary armament on most Japanese cruisers built between 1900 and 1920, and was the primary armament on a number of destroyers, including the Umikaze class. Some units were still in service as late as the Pacific War.
These guns were mounted on Italian cruisers built by Ansaldo.